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By Thomas Wheeler

I acquired this new Gundam action figure after some people in Texas reported finding the assortment at a Super Target in their area. I found this especially interesting, and reasonably hopeful, since both Target and Wal-Mart have eliminated Gundam toys from their current toy department layouts.

This particular Gundam figure is in the same assortment as the one which I encountered at the Mitsukoshi store in Walt Disney World in early July, although I do not recall seeing it there. The assortment also includes the standard Strike Gundam, the Duel Gundam, and the Red and Blue Astray Gundams.

So, what is a "Strike Gundam Deactive Mode"? In the animated series, when not in use, the Gundams tend to turn shades of grey, almost like black-and-white versions of their regular modes. Their "full color" versions are a result of their activiating their "Phase Shift" armor. Although this feature uses a fair amount of energy, it also makes the Gundams less vulnerable to attack. And who wants to see a bunch of black-and-white Gundams, anyway.

The Gundams tend to revert to "Deactive Mode" when they're running out of power, or have run out of power. They're not completely immobile in this mode. They can move, and fight, to a degree. But think of it a bit like a video game in "demo" mode. You can move, you can shoot, but there's a distinct limit to how much you're going to be able to do, and you're not going to be able to do much.

The official explanation for Phase Shift armor, literally from GundamOfficial.Com, is as follows: While active, this special armor nullifies all attacks by physical weapons, including blades, projectiles, and conventional explosives. However, it has no effect against beam and laser weapons, so most of the Gundams also carry shields treated with anti-beam coating. And because Phase Shift Armor consumes large amounts of energy, it cannot be used for extended periods lest it drain the mobile suit's energy battery.

PS Armor changes color upon activation. The Gundams which use this technology thus sport brilliant colors while in their Active Mode, and turn a dull gray when they switch to Deactive Mode.

Obviously Bandai elected to make a figure of the Strike Gundam in this mode because it was a fairly easy way to reuse the basic molds. Not that there's any shortage of Strike Gundam variants that have been planned for this line, as such time as it returns to the stores, which I hope it does, not particularly for all the Strikes, but for such Gundams as the Aegis, the Blitz, the Freedom, the Justice, the Raider, the Gold Astray -- you get the idea...

The Strike Gundam is the central Gundam in the series, in fairness, and it really does have all of the weapons packs that the variant toys are expected to be equipped with. So it's not like Bandai is making stuff up just to keep using the same basic Gundam repeatedly. We're not quite talking "Batman Syndrome" here, with neon green and intense purple versions of a certain Caped Crusader that are pumped out at the toy company's whim.

In Gundam SEED, the Strike Gundam is the only mobile suit that wasn't stolen by the enemy forces of ZAFT early on. It is piloted by Kira Yamato on behalf of the Earth Federation. Kira is a Coordinator, a genetically-enhanced being, and can pilot the Strike better than anyone else. Interestingly, the war taking place in Gundam SEED is the Coordinators of ZAFT against the non-enhanced people of the Earth Federation. In principle, Kira is on the wrong side, something which a one-time friend of his in ZAFT points out to him at every opportunity.

But I digress. The toy is, of course, an excellent Gundam action figure. Highly detailed and superbly articulated. And it's not quite done in all greys, fortunately. That would've looked almost impossibly dull. The torso, which in "Active" mode would be a bright blue, is a more muted steel blue. The sections which would normally be red, are a sort of blue-grey. There's even a bit of very pale blue on the figure's "antennae", which normally would be yellow. The only real color on the figure is its eyes, which are yellow, and as such are very distinctive on the otherwise muted-color figure. You sort of get the impression it's staring at you sometimes.

The Strike Gundam Deactive Mode does come with weapons and accessories, including a rifle, spare hands, a large shield, which is painted in red and yellow, since the weaponry doesn't really have a "deactive mode", and its little pocket knives, for lack of a better description. These fit into pouches on the figure's hips, and in the series, have already been used on more than one occasion to considerable effect in close-range combat.

I don't know how much of a fluke it was that these folks in Texas found this Gundam toy, and the overall assortment it was packaged with. Interestingly, several days later, they found the 7.5" Strike Gundam, which I also saw in Walt Disney World, and which has yet to appear anywhere else. I don't collect that scale of Gundam figures, but I do recall that it looked impressive enough.

Honestly, at this point, any Gundam sales of the basic figures, 4.5" or 7.5", can only serve to help the line. But given that two such different shipments showed up at this Target, I don't think it can be called a "fluke". I suspect there's Gundam toys waiting for their chance at various distribution warehouses. Hopefully, they will get their chance to emerge on the scene.

Meanwhile, if you see any of the new Gundam SEED toys, including the STRIKE GUNDAM DEACTIVE MODE, they all have my definite recommendation, and I'm very pleased to have this one!